Beef as a Versatile Ingredient

Beef as a Versatile Ingredient

Beef is a popular ingredient in many countries around the world. Cattle is one of the number one industries in the United States, and Japan has turned beef production into an art with traditional Kobe beef. Kobe beef is unavailable outside of Japan, but it is so sought after for its flavor profile that imitation producers have cropped up all over the world. So why is beef such a popular ingredient?

The answer lies in the fact that cattle is relatively easy to raise. Yes, they require a lot of food to grow, but they grow fast, and they are easier to maintain than some other livestock. Of course, sheep are nearly as easy to raise, but many, especially in North America, prefer the taste of beef. Part of its popularity is marketing, but a lot of it has to do with its abundance and versatility in cooking.

Beef comes in a variety of cuts that make it perfect for various dishes. Hamburgers, meatloaf, and soups are traditional North American favorites made from ground beef. Steak, of course, is a worldwide favorite. Roasts are probably the most versatile of any of the cuts. They can be consumed in thick slices with vegetables and gravy. Another favorite is thin slices on toasted hero buns with a salty beef au jus for dipping. Roast can also be chopped in 1-inch cubes for stew and chili or chopped small for use in teriyaki wraps.

Beef is also safe to eat at different temperatures. Steak tartar, for instance, is consumed chilled, and a rare steak is done when it reaches a mere 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Two of the most popular cuts are brisket and tenderloin. Tenderloin is tender enough to cut with a butter knife while providing a strong beef flavor. Brisket is super-cheap and ultra-tough if cooked improperly, but it can get as tender as tenderloin when cooked slowly over a low heat.

Interestingly, the techniques for cooking beef have not changed a lot over the years. While they have not changed drastically, they certainly have been perfected. Grilling over an open fire is both the oldest way to cook meat and a modern favorite when it comes to beef preparation. Get lean cuts or trim excess fat, and beef remains fairly low in calories, and it is a great source of protein and iron.